Why does coffee cause throat irritation?
Throat irritation after coffee intake is most often the sign of one of these conditions:
- acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- diabetes or pre-diabetes
- allergic reaction
Symptoms accompanying a coffee-triggered sore throat might help to identify the underlying medical issue.
However, those who regularly experience throat irritation after coffee should consult with a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.
Phlegmy throat caused by coffee
Coffee is a surprisingly common reflux trigger. As such, coffee can cause:
- excess phlegm production
- sore throat
- lump in throat
- sour taste in the mouth
- swallowing problems (dysphagia)
All of the above are typical symptoms of a condition called silent reflux (or laryngopharyngeal reflux, LPR).
The problem with coffee is that it tends to relax the muscle that prevents digestive juices from backing up into the food pipe.
When this happens, stomach content can seep up into the food pipe, irritating the lining of the esophagus. This causes a burning sensation around the middle of the chest, called heartburn.
However, sometimes these acidic juices can travel all the way up to the throat and mouth, causing symptoms there. In such cases, people often don’t feel heartburn at all.
People suffering from this condition often have symptoms after eating fried, fatty food or drinking alcohol.
Dry or scratchy throat after coffee
Coffee is a natural diuretic and diuretics can cause dehydration. Even though it’s unlikely to have severe symptoms from coffee, it can still cause symptoms, especially in the case of:
- not drinking enough water
- doing heavy physical exercises
- warm weather
- having diarrhea
Coffee usually causes only mild dehydration symptoms, like dry mouth, tongue, and throat.
If dehydration is causing a scratchy throat, drinking plenty of water should help.
Sore throat, coffee & (pre)diabetes
Even though coffee might help to prevent diabetes, Mayoclinic recommends avoiding coffee for those who already have diabetes, as it might cause problems with the blood sugar level.
Diabetic patients often have symptoms like:
- dry or sore throat
- sticky mouth
- mouth sores
- cracked lips
The most common causes of sore throat in people with diabetes:
- High blood sugar levels can cause a sore throat. Thirst and dry mouth are typical symptoms of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
- Diabetic people are more prone to infections and diseases. A sore or scratchy throat and painful swallowing can be a symptom of this.
Those who suffer from diabetes should be mindful of the sugar they add to their coffee.
Throat irritation, throat tightness & coffee
Throat irritation or tightness immediately after drinking coffee might be the symptoms of a food allergy:
- Even though caffeine allergy is rare, some people might have allergic reactions after the ingestion of caffeine, be it in the form of coffee, chocolate, or coke.
- Milk is a very common allergen. However, if milk is the culprit, all other foods containing dairy products should cause symptoms.
- Those who put honey in their coffee might have allergic symptoms because of the pollens in the honey.
Common food allergy symptoms include rashes, hives, itchy eyes, and a runny nose. Food allergies usually cause symptoms right after drinking coffee (within minutes).
In more severe cases allergy might cause breathing difficulties, and swollen body parts (e.g. tongue, lips). Symptoms might develop into a very serious condition, called anaphylaxis, which requires immediate help.
If you think you might have a food allergy, it would be important to talk to an allergist and get yourself tested. Because of the potential serious symptoms, people should avoid foods they are allergic to.
Sore throat remedies after coffee
The best remedy for a sore throat after drinking coffee depends on the underlying medical issue, that triggered the symptoms.
If gastric acid seeps up into the mouth, you can try to wash it down, back into the stomach:
- small sips of water or tea might help
- chewing gum is a good reflux remedy
Next time try to drink less coffee or eat less while drinking coffee and see if symptoms improve.
Simple dehydration could be relieved with a glass of water, or two. Just make sure you don’t drink anything full of sugar and/or caffeine (soda, energy drinks), as they could make your sore throat worse.
Fruit juices, salty soups might also help.
Get immediate medical help in case of extreme thirst, dizziness, blurred vision, and other more serious symptoms!
If you are allergic to milk or honey, simply don’t add them to your coffee, but you can drink coffee.
However, if you are allergic to caffeine, you should eliminate coffee from your diet. Even decaf coffee contains small amounts of caffeine which might cause symptoms.
Ask your allergist if you can drink coffee in any form!
While most people can consume moderate amounts of coffee without any problem, it might trigger symptoms for some.
Throat problems, including sore throat, dry or scratchy throat, and throat irritation are all possible after coffee intake.
In many cases, silent reflux is the culprit. Other possible, albeit less common, causes are dehydration, food allergy, and diabetes.